Ins and outs of the new overtime rule

The NFL first utilized overtime in 1958, when the Colts beat the Giants in the game that history points to as the moment pro football became a major American sport.  More than a quarter-century later, the NFL adopted sudden-death overtime for the regular season, dramatically expanding its use.

Now, 36 years after that, the NFL has deactivated the land mine that could have marred a Super Bowl, nearly two months to the day after it undermined the NFC title game by sending the Saints to the championship game after a field goal to cap the first drive of overtime.

For those of you who haven’t been following the events that culminated in today’s vote, here’s a list of questions and answers that should tell you everything you need to know, and then some.

And, yes, we agree with the move.  It’s not perfect, and it’s not the rule we would have adopted.  But it’s better.

Q:  Why did the league make the change?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell constantly talks about the importance of
striving for ways to improve the game.  And the league did
just that with a rule that prevents a team from winning a postseason
game by receiving the kickoff to start overtime, driving 30 yards or so,
and sending the ball through the goal posts for a three-point victory.

“It wasn’t producing the ‘fairest result,’ if you will, based on the effect of field goal accuracy, field goal distance and the drives chart,” Competition Committee co-chair Rich McKay said during a Tuesday press conference.

The perception of unfairness came from the increase in the amount of first-drive field goals since 1994, when the kickoff point was moved from the 35 to the 30.  Though in the past the league considered simply moving the kickoff from the 30 back to the 35, the Competition Committee focused on what came to be known as “modified sudden death.”

Q.  What is the new rule?

It’s simple.  The team that receives the kickoff to start overtime in a playoff game can no longer win by kicking a field goal on the first drive.  If the team that receives the kickoff to start overtime scores a field goal, the team that kicked off gets a possession, and can match with a field goal (converting the game to sudden death), beat the field goal with a touchdown (and win), or fail to score at all (and lose).

That sums it all up.  But we realize that some of you will prefer to have the various permutations crammed into your mouths via a spoon.

So here we go.  We hope you don’t mind a spork.  

Q.  What happens if the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a field goal?

The game continues, and the team that kicked off gets a chance to match or beat the three points the other team scored.

Q.  What happens if the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown?

Game over.  The team that received the ball to start overtime wins.

Q.  Isn’t that unfair, too?

Yes and no.  Though we’d prefer that both teams be guaranteed a possession regardless of whether the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown or a field goal, the rule that the NFL adopted allows the team that kicked off to defend the end zone instead of the goal posts. 

Q.  What happens if the team that receives the opening kickoff punts?

The game essentially converts to sudden death.  The next team to score wins the game.

Q.  What happens if the team that receives the opening kickoff turns the ball over?

The game essentially converts to sudden death.  The next team to score wins the game.

Also, if the turnover is returned for a touchdown on the same play, the game ends at that moment.

Most importantly, if the defense fumbles the ball after forcing the turnover and the team that received the opening kickoff recovers, the game ends on the first score, even if it’s a field goal.

Q.  What if the teams that receives the opening kickoff is tackled in the end zone?

The other team scores two points, and the game ends.

Q.  What happens if the team that kicks off to start overtime recovers an onside kick?

The game converts to sudden death.

Q.  What happens if the team that received the kickoff scores a field goal and recovers an onside kick?

The game ends; the team that scored the field goal wins.

Q.  What happens if the team that received the kickoff scores a field goal and stops the other team from scoring?

Game ends.  The ream that scored the field goal on the opening drive wins.

Q.  What happens if, after the team that receives the kickoff scores a field goal, the other team scores a field goal?

The game converts to sudden death, and the team that received the kickoff to start overtime gets the next kickoff.  The next score wins.

Q.  What happens if, after the team that receives the kickoff scores a
field goal, the other team scores a touchdown?  

Game ends.  The team that scored the touchdown wins.

So that’s it.  Everything you could want to know about the new overtime rules.  (Actually, there’s one more scenario we haven’t presented here, involving the possibility of a nine-point final margin of victory.  We’re tracking down the answer and we’ll follow up soon.)

79 responses to “Ins and outs of the new overtime rule

  1. Maybe they can hire a special ref to determine exactly when games end. Hopefully she will at least have a GED to understand everything.
    Yes, she. They need a female ref, preferably hot.

  2. That 9 point victory would be if the initial offense scores a field goal.. then has a pick six while on Defense or a fumble return for a TD.. actually anytime an team kicks a field goal in OT and then picks a pass off on the next possession they should down it at the risk of fumbling the run back..

  3. Heh. 9 points meaning they scored a FG, kicked off, and then got a turnover which they ran into the end zone, and the question being whether the 6 points are counted… and my guess is they are. Because otherwise that would mean that the play was no longer alive when they made the turnover, which doesn’t seem to make sense.

  4. 9 point margin is easy:
    Team that receives scores a FG, then kicks off. Then returns a pick 6 (or something like that) while playing defense. They win by 9.

  5. “nearly two months to the day after it undermined the NFC title game by sending the Saints to the championship game after a field goal to cap the first drive of overtime.”
    The way that was written, seems to imply somehow that the Vikings were robbed of a championship. They were not. They lost. Period. End of story.
    In no way can that be considered unfair.

  6. Thanks, Florio.
    Every other website just has a sports “journalist” complaining about stupid shit. No one else that I’ve seen has sought out the answers to these scenarios.

  7. “It’s not perfect, and it’s not the rule we would have adopted. But it’s better.”
    ========================
    It’s not better. It’s just longer. Stop telling all of us it’s better, and do some research until you find out what the week 1 and thanksgiving games are going to be!

  8. What if the team with second possession after the 1st team makes a FG runs out of time in the 1stOT? Do they play into a 2ndOT to finish the drive? Or does the game end after the 15 minutes with the team down 3 with the ball still? I would assume the game ends there but you can make an argument with the team winning the coin toss had more time to score. The odds of this happening are slim to none but it’s a possibility.

  9. what happens if…
    Say Team A recieves the kickoff and kicks a field goal. Then Team B throws an interception, but the defense (Team A) fumbles the ball back to Team B.
    Does Team B continue that possession? Or is it over? It would be weird for the game to end even though Team B has possession.

  10. What happens if the first team recovers an onside kick then punts. Then the other team kicks a field goal?
    Game over? Or did your first possession not count because you got it by onside kick?

  11. i’m really happy they did something but this rule is only slightly less stupid. sudden-death should be simple and self-explanatory (see this “Tournament” thing i keep hearing about this time of year). play one 5 minute overtime period during the regular season, no field goals, only a touchdown (or safety) can win. same rules for the playoffs minus a time limit.
    i’ve never emphasized the importance of each team getting a possession myself because if Defensive Unit A can’t stop Offensive Unit B things just become college football shoot-outs anyway. but that’s just my two cents.

  12. Florio, you’ve been working too hard lately if you didn’t figure out that the first team could score a field goal and then score on a turnover on team #2’s first drive. Pretty simple stuff! Take it easy, will ya?!!!

  13. Couple corrections: There was an overtime game in the preseason in 1955, and overtime was brought to the regular season in ’74, not “more than a quarter century” after 1958.

  14. Team A get the ball and makes a field goal. Then they onside kick and recover. Games over without team B ever getting the ball.

  15. I was just going to ask about a similar scenario as scipaz64, only it was for the first team that received the kickoff. if they fumble and get the ball back on the same play, does that change the game to sudden death?

  16. the real reason- how still to win the fix bet if the spread is say 7 points or so and you must take it to overtime because all the penalties your refs call for you aren’t enuff to get the job done in regulation time.

    new overtime 9 point win cover of the spread
    c/p above
    “Team that receives scores a FG, then kicks off. Then returns a pick 6 (or something like that) while playing defense. They win by 9.”

  17. Do you really think people are going to be confused when the first team that scores wins the game?
    I don’t remember any outrage or confusion after Canada won the Olympic gold medal game in sudden death overtime.
    But now people will be confused when a team gets a safety and they win, yet a team in another game scores a field goal, which is worth more points and doesn’t automatically win.
    Florio, quit trying to turn the game into baseball.

  18. If the Patriots get the ball and don’t score…punt it to the Ravens. Then the raiders kick a field goal… do to keep trying for a TD or is the game over?

  19. If Team A performs an onside kick to start overtime, but fails to recover it, does team B only need to kick a field goal to win?

  20. CRYBABIES!!!!!!!!!!!
    As a Chiefs fan it’s hard to say this, but….
    YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!!!!!!!!
    Now I guess you play to make sure that nobody’s feelings are hurt…
    welcome to the NWL
    National Wussball League!!!!
    QB’s crying till they get flags, people crying because “It’s not fair!”
    What’s next??? Oh, I have a good new rule:
    Each coach gets to call his mommy once per game so she can call the other coach’s mommy and make him stop playing so hard???!!??
    They won’t stop until it’s 2 hand touch and the losers get a participation trophy…
    Might as well start watching soccer…

  21. Stupid rule. Overtime is a means to ending the game. “Fair” happens in the first 60 minutes of the game.
    Actually I think the coin flip is stupid. I think the visiting team should kick off to start OT.
    A better rules should be it the game ends in a tie, giving each team a participation ribbon would be a better idea. Then everyone can feel good about themselves and it would be fair and nobody would have to feel bad about “losing” the game. Everyone is a winner!
    Better yet, let’s not even keep score at all. Eliminate the post season and have all teams end the season the same way – all winners. Every team gets a Lambardi trophy. These are the lessons that we needs to be teaching our children.

  22. @ Florio
    You get dumber by the day. What is there to “track down” about the nine point win? It’s obviously a FG plus an INT or fumble returned for a TD.
    What is wrong with you?

  23. For everyone that is against the new format, I’m curious: Were you against instant replay? If so, are you still against it? What about the two-point conversion?

  24. And this is exactly why the overtime rules should have never been changed. The only Q&A needed before was:
    Q: How do you decide the winner?
    A: The first person to score wins.
    THAT’S IT!
    Thanks Mike, Peter King, Goodell and the owners for taking one more step towards f*cking up the most popular sport in the country.

  25. Great synopsis, MF. Thanks for clearing up much of the smoke.
    I cringed the whole time reading it, expecting a snarky comment about Tim Tebow or a Ben Roethlisberger joke, but it was clean.

  26. scipaz – The answer is in the article.
    Most importantly, if the defense fumbles the ball after forcing the turnover and the team that received the opening kickoff recovers, the game ends on the first score, even if it’s a field goal.

  27. hate to piss on ur parade homie but the vikings lost because of another horrible nfc championship int(08) thrown by mr. im too old for training camp…..in reality its mr. im too old for the playoffs

  28. Why is the league making the implementing the new overtime rule you ask? Well, because some folks that aren’t thinking this all the way out (like yourself) have been demanding it.
    10x’s more drama, arguments, and more articles will come about after this new overtime has been witnesses.
    I hope it’s implemented for the entire season, so certain, um uh, people will see just how stupid this really is.

  29. “Actually, there’s one more scenario we haven’t presented here, involving the possibility of a nine-point final margin of victory.”
    I think he realizes how the scenario can play out. The question is probably whether or not the play is over after the interception/fumble is officially in the other team’s possession.
    Do they let the play carry out? Or do they just blow the whistle and stop the game immediately (think of an interception on a 2 point conversion).
    I would imagine you’d hear the whistle.
    This would prevent the scenario scipaz describes…

  30. i like it. i like the safety part too. you have to give the defense some love after all the rule changes to assist the offenses in the NFL

  31. Anybody else foresee an increase in onside kicks to begin overtime? If a successfully recovered onside kick turns the game into sudden death, and a team feels confident that they can drive down and score at least a field goal, I imagine many teams will begin overtime with an onside kick. Even if they don’t recover the onside kick, they will still have a chance to get the ball back if they hold the other team to a field goal at the most. Seems like it might be worth it to just start with an onside kick, which seems a little funky.

  32. “That 9 point victory would be if the initial offense scores a field goal.. then has a pick six while on Defense or a fumble return for a TD.. actually anytime an team kicks a field goal in OT and then picks a pass off on the next possession they should down it at the risk of fumbling the run back.”
    yeah that would be brilliant.
    now your offense has to score.
    jeeze, west virginia poster no doubt.

  33. re:since 1994, the team that won the overtime coin toss won the game on the first possession 34 per cent of the time.

    they even give you phony stats
    but many of those times by a touchdown. teams also kick field goals to break a vtie with about 2 or 3 minutes left in a game as well BECAUSE they can’t get in close enough to score a td. these owners wouldnt even let their coaches vote on it. as dumb a mopve as the lockout these seat license mad owners are planning for next year.

  34. Good question scipaz64…I presume w/ your example that when Team B throws the INT and Team A fumbles it, it is part of the same play? I think so long as Team B re-recovers the football after the INT, they probably get the chance to match or beat the FG.
    But if Team A picks off Team B and whoever picked off the pass gets tackled, the game is over.

  35. Of all the suggestions for changing the overtime rule, the simplest was that overtime just be a continuation of the 4th quarter for a fixed period of time (7.5 minutes?) with the ball position and possession staying as it was at the end of the 4th quarter. I gather that that was never considered by the owners. Does anyone know why?

  36. So the OT period will be untimed? I assume all replays will be initiated by the officials. How many timeouts per team?

  37. half-assed solution, to something that wasn’t a problem to begin with.
    I can’t wait until the opening kick is returned for a TD in OT, then Florio can start crying again about everyone not getting to touch the ball.

  38. Is this the WWE? What if we have a QB hit the opposing QB with a chair before the OT kickoff? What a silly Disney type rule. Let’s let the game be played by men and not mice. Sudden death has always been exciting. What is so exciting about a 4th down incompletion to win the game. Booooorrrriiiinnnggggg.

  39. SC21 says:
    March 23, 2010 9:56 PM
    3 points isn’t enough to win, but 2 points is! Amazing!
    3 points is enough to win. If Team A kicks a field goal (3 pts.) and Team B fails to score afterwards, game over. Team A wins by 3 points. The rule is predicated on who has the most points after each team has 1 chance to score.

  40. SC21 says: March 23, 2010 9:56 PM
    3 points isn’t enough to win, but 2 points is! Amazing!
    ——————–
    common sense isn’t that common oh well….

  41. Turd Ferguson says:
    March 23, 2010 9:50 PM
    At what point could/would the game end in a tie?
    When times runs out and the score is still tied. Just like it always has been.

  42. Turd Ferguson says:
    March 23, 2010 9:50 PM
    At what point could/would the game end in a tie?
    ooops, my bad. This is for playoff games only, so the game can’t end in a tie, they keep playing until there is a score, just like the current system.

  43. There would be no tie because this system is set up for the playoffs only as of right now. I do think it is a shame they are changing a system that has worked since 1958. If the game of football is as popular as it is the way it is then why change it??? Its only going to be more confusing and cause more problems for the referees who I know will have a very hard time grasping this new concept.

  44. I guess the Pats won’t win anymore Superbowls – a 3 point win is the only way they can win one.

  45. “And the league did just that with a rule that prevents a team from winning a postseason game by receiving the kickoff to start overtime, driving 30 yards or so, and sending the ball through the goal posts for a three-point victory.”
    So in your mind is a FG on the first possession to start the game incredulous if at the end of regulation the score is tied?
    I don’t understand your ‘better for the game’ logic, because it makes no sense. How is playing the game how it is supposed to be played bad for the game? Why is a scoring drive that is dependent on the outcome of the game more scrutinized than a first quarter scoring drive? Why is the clock meticulously managed down to the 1/10th of a second in the last two minutes of each half and not the entire game?
    There will be so many pressing issues with this passing of another garbage rule, and it will change after a few years. Let’s just put up with it until Florio and Goodell get their panties bleached.

  46. Unless I missed something, I don’t get why this is being applied starting in postseason. It’s ass backwards. I’d have the new OT throughout the regular season, THEN have the excitement of the sudden death OT in the playoffs. The new OT does take away from the defense, but since the refs prefer QB’s in skirts anyway, this new format doesn’t surprise me. Either go all in with it during the regular season or leave it how it is.

  47. What happens if team A receives the OT kickoff, kicks a field goal to go up 3, and then they recover their own inside kick? Game
    over?
    They should have just made the rule “first to six”. So much easier and it serves the same purpose.

  48. And really, the new format is pretty simple. If you can’t understand it I can’t imagine how you can follow as a game as complex as American football.

  49. “NFL has deactivated the land mine that could have marred a Super Bowl, nearly two months to the day after it undermined the NFC title game by sending the Saints to the championship game after a field goal to cap the first drive of overtime.”
    I guess sandy-vagina Viking fans will be crying “See, we DID win..Florio agrees” as they hoist their ‘2009 real-NFC Champions’ banner. Minnysooota Douches.

  50. Good recap, thanks. I think it’s kind of stupid and strange to make coaches have to prepare differently and not let them be the ones to vote on it but, whatever.

  51. this is the dumbest rule change. the NFL’s sudden death OT was awesome. this is just contrived, complicated, and not as exciting.
    i dont see how its so “unfair” to make the team that lost the kickoff to cover the kick, and then play defense.
    ridiculous. roger goodell is ruining the NFL. all the new trophies and logos suck too.

  52. What’s your problem with Minnesota fans?
    They got jobbed.
    They didn’t win, Saints are champs and everyone’s happy for them, blah, blah, blah, doesn’t change the fact they got jobbed. I don’t see any of them whining here. Florio isn’t whining. Everyone should be happy they’ve done a good thing here in working to fix a stupid format that in the last fifteen years has become obsolete.

  53. If the Chiefs kick off and then….oh, nevermind, this rule only applies to playoff games and they haven’t won one in 17 years.

  54. “Q. What happens if, after the team that receives the kickoff scores a field goal, the other team scores a field goal?
    The game converts to sudden death, and the team that received the kickoff to start overtime gets the next kickoff. The next score wins.

    Maybe its just me but this sort of defeats the purpose of the rule change. The coinflip and a field goal could still decide the game. The team that won the coin toss still gets the first second possession, and the chance to win the game uncontested on a field goal.
    Strategy before hand was win the toss, get into field goal range, make the kick and you win.
    Now the strategy is make the field goal on the first possession, hold the other guys to 3, and still win on a field goal when you get the ball back. Seems like a bunch of unneccassary possessions for nothing.

  55. mattlion: They should have just made the rule “first to six”. So much easier and it serves the same purpose.
    Word for word.

  56. Florio, the Chargers would have still beaten the Colts in OT in 2009 under the current format! All the crying that you did for Peyton Manning to have a chance to get on the field…..he still wouldn’t have had a chance…..(see

    – CRYBABY!

  57. real reason for not wants to change the overtime rules?
    fantasy stats.
    if they went to a college format it could destroy the gamestats.

  58. This will help to make overtime more exciting for the fans as well. I’m tired of seeing a good return, one first down, and a field goal try on a first or a second down.
    This will make teams actually try to score a TD, at least on the first two possessions of overtime. And I’d much rather see that than a chip shot field goal on first down.

  59. Isn’t it obvious?
    They made the change because the babies & whiners in the media are all Brett Farve fans. How pathetic!
    In a way it will be good, because now teams will do everything CONCIEVABLE to make sure they never have to go to OT. 😉

  60. The problem wasn’t that kickers accuracy improved, the problem is that the impact of kickers (and punters) on the outcome of the game became greater than what it should be. When kicking and punting turned into a science, it changed the dynamics of the game, not just for OT, but during regulation as well. This rule solves the wrong problem.
    Take the air out of the kicking balls and move the kickoff line up to compensate. That would reduce the impact of kickers and punters on game dynamics and would be a virtually seamless change to the product that joe sixpack sees on the field.

  61. One more thing to mention. This rule change was probably approved, NOT because of the NFC championship game, but because of the pending labor strife.
    This rule change will act to INCREASE the length of OT. Which means that players have to play longer without additional compensation. Expect the Union to have something to say about it. This is just another bargaining chip for the owners.

  62. You PFT guys are pretty smart sometimes; what about this for an overtime rule?
    -Sudden death overtime period with NO PUNTING ALLOWED.
    -Team with the ball at end of regulation retains ball with the same down and distance at start of overtime (no kickoff).
    This would:
    -Eliminate unfair coin toss.
    -Make teams try to score in regulation to avoid losing ability to punt (no boring clock killing to play for overtime).
    -Lead to more offense and quicker end to the game (although likely many OT field goal wins so nothing new there).
    Can’t think of many negatives with this…

  63. 49er fan here so no issues/favoritism, etc. with recent OT games in playoffs 🙂 Maybe someday fairly soon….back to issue at hand.
    “undermined the NFC title game” is a weak statement. This everyone should get a trophy mentality is ridiculous. Teams had 60 minutes to win the game before OT. Don’t miss that tackle in the 1Q, don’t throw that pick in the 4Q, etc. etc. to put yourself in the position of having to rely on a coin flip. Even then, your team isn’t relying on a coin flip, your D has a job to do and if they can’t stop ONE drive at a crucial time, they aren’t the best overall TEAM anyways.
    I don’t like the new OT rule at all.

  64. While this all makes sense to me, I don’t think it will to everyone. I recall Donovan McNabb not knowing about ties a couple years ago.
    Why don’t we just add 10 or 15 minutes to the clock and play another quarter? The NFLPA may bitch, but it is how most other sports do it.

  65. Isn’t there a 5 point scenario as well? Opening FG, safety on ensuing possession. 5 point OT win.

  66. # scipaz64 says: March 23, 2010 10:05 PM
    what happens if…
    Say Team A recieves the kickoff and kicks a field goal. Then Team B throws an interception, but the defense (Team A) fumbles the ball back to Team B.
    Does Team B continue that possession? Or is it over? It would be weird for the game to end even though Team B has possession.
    * * *
    I guess the following three scenarios are possible:
    Team A recieves the kickoff and kicks a field goal. Then Team B throws an interception…
    1. …but the defense (Team A) fumbles the ball back to Team B…
    1.a …who return the ball into the endzone, thus winning the game – sudden death.
    1.b …who fail to return the ball into the endzone, thus losing the game, because they did have a possession prior to the fumble and failed to score on it – sudden death.
    2. …and the play is called dead immediately for a sudden death (kind of like two-point conversions are handled).
    I would go with #2 which would also eliminate the possibility of a 9-point margin.

  67. Another interesting case would be a muffed punt recovered by the punting team.
    Would this convert the game into sudden death if it happened on the first possession?
    According to the NFL rule book, a muff implies that the return team never had possession – but then again, the same holds true for an onside kick recovered by the kicking team…
    * * *
    Speaking of onside kicks…
    An onside kick recovered by the kicking team converts the game into sudden death.
    Does the same hold true for a normal kickoff recovered by the kicking team? I guess, it should…

  68. Okay, apparently the key language of the new rule is the “chance to possess” the ball.
    Lining up to receive a kick is considered such a chance, so the attempt to catch a punt should be considered such a chance also.
    It remains to be clarified if the play is called dead immediately in case of an interception or fumble recovered by the defense (as it is handled with 2-point conversions) after a FG was scored on the first possession.

  69. Roger goddell, et al have obviously been injecting meth into thier viens and smoking cotton panty liners to come up with this silly ass nonsense. The only way this crap scenario does the NFL any good is they now can charge for more commercials.

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